Responses to Readers' Questions
Barbara L. Bigelow
Candidate For Ketchikan Gateway
3 year term ( 2 seats open)
September 16, 2003
Sunday - 10/05/03 - 7:45 pm
Questions For Borough Assembly Candidates
Reader's Question #1 - What planning methods would you use
for future projects? (09/15/03)
to question #1 - Published
Strategic planning could be
considered for larger scale and more costly projects. Town meetings
(perhaps quarterly or twice annually) where the public has an
opportunity to offer opinion and expertise would be beneficial.
The Assembly would then have some idea of community need and
perception of a project. An effective business planning technique
is the employment of a SWOT analysis. SWOT means: strengths,
weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Cost and benefit also
must be factored. Essentially, the type of planning to utilize
depends on the nature and extent of the project.
Reader's Question #2 - Several if not all of the candidates
have stated that the Assembly should "fully fund" the
school district. What obligation does the Assembly have, if any,
to insure that the funding is wisely used by the school district
to question #2 - Published
The school district budget
is governed by state statute, various regulations which regard
the development of the school's budget, and the School Board.
The Assembly should take an interest in school funding certainly,
but as an elected body it has no authority to determine whether
funds are used wisely. The Assembly must trust the School Board
and the Superintendent to effectively manage their budget. Thank
you for the question and the opportunity to respond to questions
#1 and #2.
Reader's question #3 - Recently the current Assembly increased
our property taxes and refused to make significant cuts in Borough
grants to non profit special interest groups. In at least one
case, the Borough obligates local taxpayers to pay for services
from the UAS Ketchikan Campus that, according to Statute, should
be paid by State funds.
Should local residents be forced to pay for University services
that are an obligation of the State?
How can we bring some sort of control and spending limit on this
Borough grants program?
Should we continue this Borough grants program when we are forced
to cut required services such as the Borough bus? Thank you!
to question #3 - Published
The State funds the University of Alaska. Each year UA President
Hamilton lobbies the Legislature for money. In a similar manner,
the Director of a smaller UA extension may lobby locally, seeking
budgetary assistance in certain programs for which the community
is the direct beneficiary. The pass-through of Borough dollars
to the UAS-Ketchikan campus has occurred for many years. The
money requested is specifically earmarked for local workforce
development and employee training. For every dollar the Borough
appropriates to UAS-Ketchikan Campus, the State provides a general
fund match. The money is not used for traditional academic (degree)
programs, it is used for workforce development. A few examples
include HazMat, certified nursing assistant, construction &
welding, CDL (commercial drivers license), CPM (certified public
manager) and forklift operator, to name only a few. Community
business and industry have looked to UAS-Ketchikan to help with
employee training and workforce development. Not only does this
partnership keep and create jobs; it benefits both the business
and employees. More persons can obtain training (or re-training)
locally. The UAS-Ketchikan campus also serves as a testing center
for many work-related examinations that otherwise would necessitate
travel to Seattle or Anchorage.
The Borough Assembly had difficult decisions to make this past
year. There are many needy social services organizations and
other community groups who without the benefit of municipal assistance
would be unable to obtain (state and federal) operating grants.
Since the downturn of our local economy the number of persons
in need has risen. Many social service organizations have been
called upon more than ever to help individuals and families in
I believe we should and will continue to fund grant programs,
but the level and number of dollars therein will need careful
consideration. Our property taxes support the public schools
almost 100%. Other taxes are allocated to other community programs.
In regard to the Borough bus, like almost all public transit
systems in America, it is a highly subsidized service. Even though
the rider pays to board the bus, each time he or she does, the
Borough and its taxpayers subsidize that service. To avoid 100%
subsidy, the Bus must operate within constraint of coverage (miles),
hours of operation, and frequency of route. I will continue to
support the bus because it is a needed service. To look at bringing
control and spending limits to agencies who rely on the Borough
for assistance, the Assembly will perhaps need to more closely
examine the budgets of those who request funding each year and
make decisions based upon that analysis.
Thank you for the opportunity to respond.
Reader's question #4. In light of the current and continuing
tight budget situation within the borough, what is your position
with regard to the possibility of raising taxes to increase revenues?
And if you favor increased taxation, how would you accomplish
it? i.e. property tax increase, head tax, increased user fees,
etc. (09/22/03 - 11:30 pm)
to question #4 (Published
Property tax has been recently
increased in the Borough. At present, I am not in favor of raising
taxes. The voters, approximately two years ago, voted against
a head tax on cruise-ship visitors to Ketchikan. I am not in
support of the current sales tax proposals. There have been at
least two positions in the Borough where an employee was told
she/he was going to be laid off and then management changed tact
and retained the employee (one was a clerical position and one
a supervisory position). Later, one of these employees was again
given a termination notice "for sure." These actions
suggest to me that Borough Management does not have a clear idea
what Borough employment should look like, nor of direction within
Borough staff. I maintain the position that until the Borough
can effectively demonstrate a fiscal need based upon a budget
and working team that is as efficient as it can be, that raising
taxes simply shifts an unfair burden to taxpayers during economic
Reader's question #5. Have you ever been asked to be dishonest
as part of your job? If so, how did you handle it? Would you
lie to, or mislead, the public if you felt the public would ultimately
benefit? (09/28/03 - 11:50 PM)
to question #5 (Published
10/01/03 - 12:40 pm)
Thankfully, I have never been
asked in any position to be dishonest. As individuals, our opinions
and decisions are based on interpretation of often complex and
difficult information mixed with individual bias using past experience
as well as future projection or end result. We operate from our
own ethical center and take the thought, knowledge and opinion
of others into consideration when making decisions. Essentially
this process is carried forth when an individual is elected or
appointed to serve in a governing role. An elected official should
be able to explain her/his opinion and decision without lying
or misleading the public.
Reader's question #6. (10/04/03 - 2:15 pm)
What do you think could be
done to keep good jobs here in Ketchikan that are or might be
exported to employees down south? And what more could the Borough
do to promote new, good paying jobs?
to question #6 (Published
10/05/03 - 7:45 pm)
One of the best ways for the
Borough to promote "new good paying jobs" is by making
Ketchikan a community where business and industry employing professional
and skilled staff want to relocate and develop their business.
The Borough in conjunction with the City could provide tax incentives
such as TIF Districts (Tax Incremental Finance District) and
reduced utility rates. There are many ways to help private businesses
by tax incentives and credits.
The market determines much
of what happens with "jobs." We see this in all skilled
sectors of our economy. This can be particularly true for specialty
construction and specific industrial work.
Borough support for education
at all levels is critical, not only for attracting private business
whose employees will have families, but for training and retraining
of our local citizens to qualify for jobs. UAS-Ketchikan has
done an excellent job of preparing many local people to assume
new jobs or positions; an opportunity that many would not have
had unless they left Ketchikan to attend programs elsewhere.
This is simply not an option for many and going elsewhere may
turn into a permanent relocation. Please refer back to my earlier
response about funding UAS-Ketchikan for job-related programs.
In the business world, many
positions are telecommuting jobs. A local person may work for
a company elsewhere, but performs the work from her/his home.
These jobs are computer-based and so are largely applicable to
businesses using computers for transactions, research, data input/export
and word streaming. Telecommuting lowers company costs and can
save many from having to close down altogether. We can capitalize
on this business trend by having a strong infrastructure to support
telecommuters, i.e. training and affordable DSL/cable/wireless
communication systems. Current community business can remain
competitive by employing telecommuters as well as allow companies
in the lower 48 states to employ from our community.
Thank you for the opportunity
Questions For All Candidates
Reader's Question #1. Do you think it responsible of the
Borough to increase our taxes to provide more convenient working
(new government building) conditions, when the old mill offices
are available to them while kids in this town fight for space
to recreate. (09/22/03)
to question #1 - Published
Unequivocally no. I do not
support the current sales tax proposal.
Reader's Question #2. Many candidates have suggested they
would make staff cuts as either the sole means of achieving fiscal
responsibility or staff cuts combined with revenue increases.
Which Borough staff and/or departments do these candidates feel
are superfluous and expendable? Or if not that, least important
to retain. (09/22/03 2:40 pm)
to question #2 - Published 09/22/03
Over the years as a director
and manager in my various roles, I have witnessed and/or been
part of a budget cut that involved staff. I have been not only
part of the team making the decisions, but one of the positions
cut. The best way to make difficult decisions regarding "in-house"
cuts is by reducing or eliminating programs and through staff
attrition. Attrition means that positions are cut as staff leave,
versus the more dramatic layoff or reduction of staff. If in
fact, there were positions that should be eliminated, it is up
to the Borough Manager to make that decision and recommend to
the Assembly (her) his recommendation. It would be presumptuous
of me to even suggest that any person or department be cut because
I do not have in-depth working knowledge of the Borough and neither
does any other Assemblyperson.
Reader's Question #3. If the city of Ketchikan has all this
extra money in the bank, should city taxes be reduced to give
taxpayers a break? Why is the city looking for so many ways to
spend our money on lavish and expensive projects such as new
library and museum construction? (09/25/03 - 1:00 pm)
to question #2 - Published
10/01/03 - 12:40 pm
I believe it is prudent and
wise for a municipality to have reserve dollars. Not only can
the money be used for community projects and unfunded mandates;
the money will grow by gaining interest and continue to "fund
the funds." The Borough Assembly is not involved in the
governance of the City; it is the job of the City Council and
City Management. That said, the renovation and/or new infrastructure
for the museum and library is a needed project that has broad-based
community support. As a Borough resident I have been a user and
a recipient of the benefits of the Library and the Museum. Both
are well managed by competent and insightful individuals who
have a solid grasp on the services offered to the community and
visitors to Ketchikan.
Stories In The News